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Developer back with latest proposal to transform troubled city block in downtown Kelowna

Click to play video 'A downtown Kelowna city block that is in dire need of re-vitalization will be back in the spotlight next month when a developer presents his latest development proposal for the area' A downtown Kelowna city block that is in dire need of re-vitalization will be back in the spotlight next month when a developer presents his latest development proposal for the area
A Lower Mainland developer is coming back to city council with a revised development plan for a troubled city block in downtown Kelowna. The 200-block of Leon has seen many businesses pack up and leave over the years as the area became the epicentre of the homeless crisis. As Klaudia Van Emmerik reports, while many will agree the area needs re-vitalization, not everyone thinks what's being proposed is the right solution – Nov 27, 2020

It was once a thriving city block in downtown Kelowna.

But over the years, the 200 block of Leon Avenue lost businesses as it became the epicentre of the homeless crisis.

A Lower Mainland developer, however, is going back before city council to present his latest proposal, one which he says will revitalize the area.

Read more: ‘Eco-density’ construction changing face of downtown Kelowna

The ambitious project includes three towers, one of them 42 stories high.

“We think that it’ll totally transform the look and feel of the entire location,” said Anthony Beyrouti with Orchard Park Properties.

The buildings, which would be a mix of residential and commercial, would be connected with a skybridge over the street.

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“We think there’s going to be a hub of activity in the area. And we think people are going to want to come and visit the shops that we have and live in the area,” Beyrouti told Global News.

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Beyrouti was before council in September, but hit a roadblock because one of the towers was slated for short-term rentals.

While council has expressed interest in revitalizing that part of downtown, a building designated predominantly for short-term rentals went against city policy.

Beyrouti has since scrapped the short-term rental component and scaled down the number of residential units from 800 to 650.

The project also includes nearly 730 parking stalls.

Read more: Revitalization plans for troubled Kelowna city block hit roadblock

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“We fixed the parking. We fixed the short term. We think we’ve done everything we can to make this a fantastic opportunity for the city of Kelowna and the downtown core,” Beyrouti said.

The Gospel Mission homeless shelter, which is located on the same block, is welcoming the proposal.

“As Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, we are excited about the re-development of our area,” said executive director Carmen Rempel.

Rempel added that the shelter has some re-development plans of its own.

“We have an old building and we are entertaining ideas and going through a strategic planning process, starting in the new year to talk about what it would mean to do some redevelopment of our own,” Rempel said.

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While the developer and Gospel Mission believe they can co-exist on one block, not everyone shares the excitement.

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“Too big, too tall,” said Susan Ames, president of the Kelowna South Central Association of Neighbourhoods.

Ames represents the nearby Abbott Street corridor and believes the towers are too high for the area.

“Every story is about 10 feet, so that’s 420 feet into the sky,” Ames said.

“It will block off the sun, it will block off the view of the mountains for everybody to the east, so they’re way too high.”

Read more: Construction of Kelowna’s tallest office building hits milestone

Ames agreed the 200 block of Leon could use some development, but said she wouldn’t want to see buildings any higher than 12 stories high.

“It’s not downtown Vancouver and that’s’ what it started to look like,” Ames said.

The developer will be before city council on Dec. 8, seeking approval for a development permit.

If granted, he said he wants to move quickly to get that section of downtown re-energized as soon as possible.

“We want to do this as fast as possible,” Beyrouti said. “We could hypothetically have the first two towers done within a couple of years.”

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